Monthly Archives: January 2015

WILD

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**This post discusses the book Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed.  I wasn’t able to include page numbers to completely give credit to each quote because I have only a digital copy of the book and so that won’t be the same as pages in the actual book.  But I made sure to use quotes and it is not at all my intention to try and claim any of her awesomeness as my own.

This book means a lot to me.  I don’t remember why I picked it up or how I heard about the book.  But I am so thankful I did.  I just saw the movie this week and I loved that too.  Not nearly as much as the book, but the movie had all the parts I had hoped to see and all the feelings the book had me feeling.

The book was in my life at exactly the right time and reading it gave me exactly the validation I needed to make some final decisions.  To understand what I needed to do to more forward in my life.

The first big moment for me in the book was her discussion of why she chose a new name after getting her divorce.  The weekend I read the book I was alone at a cabin with just my dogs.  Silence and beauty all around me as I sat by the fire and in the cute cabin and read her story.  She says she knew if she got divorced she couldn’t stay her married name, but “I couldn’t go back to having the name I had had in high school and be the girl I used to be.”  And as I read that I knew that it had described exactly how I was feeling.

I had filed for divorce that same year and had been living alone for only a few weeks short of one year.  I was beginning to think a lot about my name and the choice I had to make in keeping the married name or “restoring” my maiden name.  To me, keeping my married name was never a valid choice.  I don’t mean it to sound as harsh as it likely will, but I just didn’t want to keep that connection to him.  It is who I became because I married him and I wanted a full disconnection from who I had allowed myself to become in our marriage.  However, going back to my maiden name seemed like going back to the girl in the corner.  The girl I didn’t like or accept.  And the girl who was sexually assaulted.  It felt unsafe and just not at all who I wanted to be again.  It was difficult for me to accept that because I also have very warm connections to that name.  I am close to my father, I was very close to my grandfather, and my maiden name is both the middle name for myself and for my son.

When I read that part of the book where she decided to choose her own name, I put the book down and just sat with those feelings.  And very quickly I decided that I would do that myself.  I would choose my own name.  I would decide later if I would keep my maiden name as my middle name, but I spent the next few minutes sitting by the fire thinking about what my last name should be once I was single.  I didn’t expect to come to a decision so quickly, and I won’t describe the personal moments that led me to my name, but it was a completely clear moment.  One of those moments that takes your breath away because it is so perfect.  I knew sitting by that fire who I would become.  And then I laughed and said right out loud to my dogs and the horses nearby, “that.  is.  awesome.  and that’s what i am going to do.”

Cheryl Strayed’s description of her feelings about divorce just hit exactly on the types of things I was feeling and had been feeling while deciding to move out and then go forward with divorce.  Reading her story validated my feelings and allowed me to give myself a much needed break from punishing myself for my decisions.

She wrote “as close as we’d been when we were together, we were closer in our unraveling, telling each other everything at last” and I understood that feeling in a personal way.  My husband and I had been close in some ways for many years, but never quite the way I needed.  I wanted a best friend to come home to and I never felt comfortable sharing my whole self and my whole, true feelings with him.  But after I moved out, a really strange thing happened for awhile.  I did feel closer to him and him to me.  We had long discussions and said things we should have been saying all along.  I felt closer to him than I had felt for years.  Which led to a period of us accepting separation as an option when we had always said if we couldn’t live together, there was no point to staying married.  So for the next 8 months, we lived separately and we talked and got together often to see if we could fix what was broken in our relationship.  We didn’t succeed, but I’m thankful for the time with him because feeling close to him then allowed us to move forward and not go through an angry, hateful divorce.  We were able to talk and be with our kids and treat each other with respect.

As I moved forward in living alone, I referenced the book often. I read parts of it over again and looked back at my favorite quotes a lot. I liked living alone and I still do. Cheryl Strayed wrote “Alone had always felt like an actual place to me, as if it weren’t a state of being, but rather a room where I could retreat to be who I really was.” I like that because to me that is one of the best things in the world…being alone. And I’m thankful that I can be alone and be comfortable and happy. I’ve not always been good at it because I didn’t like myself. It’s one of the best benefits I’ve received from therapy. I know now that I can be alone and that’s ok. It doesn’t mean I want to be completely alone all the time or forever, but when I am I know that I’m still with a person who’s pretty great.

I lived alone for about a year and a half before the day of my divorce arrived. And even though it was the day my marriage would be ended, I didn’t feel sad. I didn’t feel happy or relieved or angry or scared. I just felt like it was what was necessary to do what we had already done in separating ourselves and agreeing that although we loved each other, we just didn’t work the same way we once had and that wasn’t enough for me. I kept thinking of this quote from the very same book, “I didn’t feel sad or happy. I didn’t feel proud or ashamed. I only felt that in spite of all the things I’d done wrong, in getting myself here, I’d done right.” And no matter what else I was feeling, that day I just knew I had made the right decisions for me.

In moving forward now in my life, I still think of Cheryl Strayed and her story often. I’ll probably read the book again someday. There are a lot more quotes I read and think about on an almost daily basis.

Although our experiences in life were not the same, I understand the enormity of the quote ”what if I forgave myself?” Her quote goes on, but that’s the part I cling to because that’s what I have left to do with the girl in the corner. I must find a way to forgive her. And to accept that she is a part of me. A part of me who deserves forgiveness and love.

Thank you, Cheryl Strayed, for being brave enough to share your story. It has played a large part in my healing and my ability to move forward each day to rediscovering me.

KK

Validation is the key to happiness, or at least mine

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According to Merriam-Webster online, one definition of VALIDATE is this – to recognize, establish, or illustrate the worthiness or legitimacy of. A synonym shown for validate is support.

I believe everyone enjoys and wants to be validated and supported. And I believe the lack of each creates most conflict in relationships whether it is family, friends, or partners.

Think about validation for a whole day during every conversation you have with other people. Think about how you want to initially respond to what the person says and if it negates or validates what they think and feel. Do your best during conversation to respond first by validating what the person said to you. Then, respond with your own thoughts. Remember, validate does not mean agree. And thinking that it does is why people don’t do it.

I can guarantee you that in the majority of your conversations, if you start by validating the other person, you will have a lot less conflict.

In my marriage, there was never much validation. I was married to a guy who believes all things are either fact or things which can be proven wrong. Which doesn’t leave any room for how a person feels. And it’s easy to see why he communicates that way if you spend any time with his family, mostly the men. Don’t get me wrong, they are all wonderful people. People I miss often. Most just don’t believe in validating the feelings or opinions of those around them. Unless, of course, those feelings and opinions are exactly the same as their own.

That makes for some really challenging communication and some serious strain on relationships. In its worst form, it’s emotionally abusive. And as a parent, if you don’t validate your children and how they feel because you believe you don’t have to, you’ve taught them to doubt themselves. I justified that kind of communication for a lot longer than I should have, and I certainly don’t miss it.

Validation is essential to healing from lots of things, including loss, divorce, abuse, and trauma. It’s easier than trying to tell a person how to feel or to get over it anyway!! You don’t have to understand what someone went through and you don’t have to worry about saying the wrong thing. But if someone says “I feel…” you can say “I understand you’re feeling …….., is there anything you need from me right now?” Boom, you validated their feelings. You supported how they are feeling and offered to hear what they need, if anything. This gives them the power to say that they need nothing but a listening ear. Or a hug. Or time alone. Or help finding resources. It gives them the power. And that’s critical to feeling you’ve been heard. Validated. Supported.

The first week of group therapy was last night for me. Validation always comes up. It’s the best part of being in a group with people who understand exactly what it’s like to feel the things I have felt. And we always set ground rules which include asking the person who just spoke if they need anything from the group. Always giving the speaker the power over their own experience. I love that. There is a power in group therapy that cannot be explained. The support and validation of the experience is unmatched by anything else. And that’s because of healthy communication.

I’m not at all saying that my communication is perfect every day or right for you or without flaws. But I certainly AM saying that to be in my life, you better be someone who is capable of healthy communication, or of learning and growing in communication style. And you must love honesty. Even when honesty is difficult. If you’re in my life, you’re likely someone who already communicates in a loving and accepting way, and who can understand that certain things aren’t negotiable if you wanna be with me. And you’re someone who expects the same honesty and understanding and communication from me.

I worry about things I can’t control. Prior to abuse in my life, I didn’t worry about a thing. I think most people would agree that I was a pretty free-spirited kind of gal. No worries, just fun. And when that began to change for me around 16ish years old, I covered my fear and hurt with laughter, and recklessness, and being mean to people so I wouldn’t have to focus on my own hurt. I worry now mostly because I don’t feel worthy of goodness, success, safety, or love. Not on the surface, logically I know I deserve to be happy. But I don’t feel worthy way down, where it counts, where it can give me peace. I don’t feel validated or supported. It’s part of who I am. It’s the girl in the corner. The one who has the right to be healed and forgiven and free. And it’s that girl that I am working so hard to validate and to heal.

Validation…recognizing the worthiness of

I’ll get there.

KK

Taking on the girl in the corner

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***I kind of feel like this post, and many to come, should have some kind of trigger warning in addition to the fact that sometimes I will add sexual assault disclosure warnings.  But I am not sure what kind.  So let me just say please be self-aware when you are reading this post and any posts going forward for awhile.  This is very new to me and I have not spoken about it with the majority of people in my life or disclosed it publicly.  I have barely been able to recognize and name it and accept it myself.***

Well, here it goes.  I have committed to another 12-week Adult Sexual Assault (ASA) therapy group and it starts a week from today.  It is technically the same group I did last year.  The topic and goals will be the same and there will be a disclosure.

But for me, and I can’t even believe I am saying this, I think it might be scarier this time around for me.  The last group was extremely tough in many ways and disclosing that college rape experience was SO challenging.  However, even though I needed to rid myself of some blame, guilt, anger, fear, and shame, the completely logical side of me lived every day knowing that it really had not been my fault at all.  Getting through the group last year was about making a declaration, shaking off the shame, and recognizing that I have the right to complete healing in order to rediscover the me that was lost and ashamed and terrified. The level of healing that I have experienced from completing that group has been just awesome. I am thankful every single day for that group therapy success.

This time I will tackle some experiences with a specific person from my past that in my head are much more complicated AND that will force me to examine, discuss, accept and cooperate with that girl in the corner.  The one I avoid and ignore and cover with laughter.  And for the last 7 months or so, I have gone back and forth in my individual therapy between being ready to tackle this and trying to convince myself (and my therapist who wasn’t buying it) that it’s fine if I never deal with it because it doesn’t really affect me on a daily basis.  But it does and I don’t like that.

The worst part of taking on the girl in the corner is that I don’t like her and I don’t even feel like she is worth my time.  And I am ashamed of her.  And I sometimes even hate her.  And I don’t feel like anyone will believe her.  I judge her and disregard her.  I call her names and I blame her.

For anyone reading this post who hasn’t followed my previous posts and feels confused, that girl in the corner is me.  A younger me.  Somewhere between 16 and 20 most of the time.  And once in awhile she’s 38 year old me.  And I shoved her in the corner a long time ago, never to be dealt with again.  Or so I thought.

For this session of group, I may be disconnected or distant or crazy or mean or many other things.  Maybe I’ll be fun and happy most of the days.  Maybe I’ll look like I’m listening to you and have to ask you to repeat yourself.  I really have no idea what to expect.

So for now, I just want to say that I have great people around me and you each know who you are and what you mean to me.  If I don’t call enough, or laugh enough, or respond enough, or reach out to you it is NOT because you don’t mean the world to me or I don’t trust you or want and need your support.  This fight for healing is going to be difficult.  Because today, I can’t even talk about the experience as rape or sexual assault without immediately victim-blaming my very own self.

And that is a miserable feeling.

One I am proud to say I am ready to leave behind to continue rediscovering me.

So look out girl in the corner, I’m coming to rescue you and learn to love you again.

KK

What I must say about Cosby

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Every single article that comes out about Bill Cosby irritates me to the point of having to use my good coping resources. It’s not even the articles so much as the responses to the articles. The ignorant, victim-blaming, hateful comments from people who think it is some intentional “destruction of a legacy” is just ridiculous.

Let me start by saying that I was not there, I don’t know him, and I don’t know any of the women coming forward. I can honestly say his personality makes me uncomfortable, but I can also admit that who I see as a celebrity, isn’t always who the person really is in life. But my guts are good, and he’s always given me the creeps.

I believe every single woman coming forward with their stories about Bill Cosby. And I think it is brave and awesome because what I see in these stories is that women are sick of being told to shut up about being wronged.

Rape is in the news and it is freeing survivors from the burden of their secrets and their shame. And that opens them up to love and healing. And the telling of stories brings more women out of their shame until we, as women, will no longer tolerate how the world blames us for the crimes of others.

I love that. I adore every brave woman that comes out of her corner of shame to release that burden and put the blame where it belongs.

I believe the survivors. These women accusing Cosby have not asked for money and are very aware he won’t go to jail for what he did to them so long ago. And to imply they are coming forward for fame is just absurd. All survivors take a huge risk telling their stories and face horrible backlash from strangers, and often times friends and family. That’s not the kind of fame anyone looks for in life.

It makes me so angry that people will defend celebrities to the point of making threats to victims and tearing apart their character. It’s so easy for people to call out the victims for being horrible people who are just after money or fame, but most don’t know the celebrity they defend any more than they know the woman they are dragging through the mud.

You think you know that actor, singer, coach, or athlete just because you watch them on TV?? You think that making gobs of money means someone is automatically a good person?? How awful it must be to have lost touch with reality and the people you can actually connect with in your life to idolize someone who doesn’t care one bit about you and never will.

I don’t get that at all.

I believe the women. Until I’m given proof that they are not worthy of my respect and support, I believe them. Because not believing them is the bigger risk. To them and to all people who are victims of rape.

KK

A New Year and a Look Back

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A lot can change in a year. And for me, 2014 was a really big year for change.

I started 2014 with many conflicting emotions and a rather high level of anxiety. I didn’t trust myself and I felt trapped by many of my own thoughts. I was thinking about buying a house or trying to decide on continuing to rent, and I had all of the stress that went with those decisions. I was getting ready to start my 12-week group which was one of the scariest things I have ever faced. I was at the end of a divorce that I agonized over for way too many years. I was helping my teenage daughter cope with the change of living in two homes and helping us both deal with the fact that my now adult son was living out on his own and not in our daily lives.

That’s a lot of stuff. And really those things were just daily life from January to April, which left a lot of year left to live.

Thankfully, 2014 started out a bit full of stress, but became a year of fabulous positive change as well.

I bought my house on May 27 and they only considered my income and credit.  ONLY ME.  I did it all on my own and that felt awesome.  Moving is always stressful, but this was a lot more fun because as I moved in all the decisions were up to me.  I could put colorful things and things that mean the world to me everywhere I wanted and that makes me feel comfy and good.  One of my greatest friends got to visit this summer and helped me settle in even more and decorate my sunroom, which is a really awesome space.

Spring and early summer was also a time for a lot of excitement, a bit of giggling, and a dash of anxiety as I began a positive new relationship and experienced a first date for the first time since 1995!  Scott and I went to high school together and reconnecting with him all these years later has been really, really great.  He and I reconnected at a time when I least expected to be taking any time for dating, especially any dates that would lead to an actual relationship.  I was in the middle of my therapy group, just a week divorced, and kind of a mess of feelings.  But from our first messages to each other, we have never stopped talking and he has very quickly become the best friend a girl could hope to have by her side through whatever comes our way.  In just 8 months together we have had many of the best times I could imagine ever having and we have also faced a lot of challenges…and whenever I feel like my “stuff” is just going to be too much for him, he is right there to tell me that I’m worth it.  He has listened to me scream, yell, doubt myself, doubt him, be stubborn as a mule, and cry my eyes out.  Scott is thoughtful, understanding, spontaneous, dedicated to who and what he loves, smart, respectful, a great listener, charming, trustworthy, a great father, a fabulous dancer, and makes me laugh each and every day.  I love you, Scott.  Thanks for being you and being in my life.

Going through summer was fun not only because of my new love, but because I got to become more and more settled in my home and finished up the first and most difficult therapy group after 12 long weeks.  Being a part of that group with the other terrific women I met and grew to care about so much was more rewarding than I imagined it would be when it started.  Disclosing my sexual assault experience was liberating and began a healing process that I had buried and ignored for a very long time.  I feel very fortunate to have met the people who helped me go through that process.

I have continued my individual therapy and it has brought with it some new challenges that I can now manage with better coping skills.  And I love that. Fall brought some personal challenges, some a surprise and some things that were just buried under the more obvious things I have faced that are now ready to come out.  I like that therapy place where I can say anything and get an unbiased opinion on how to handle it, when I could have done something differently, and when I really did a great job of communicating and maintaining my personal boundaries.

I also love that no matter what happens to me each day, the first person I think of to tell is Scott.  I always sold myself short on that part of my relationships.  I always felt my girlfriends were the people who should be there for that stuff.  I love that Scott has become my best friend.  I still value the love and friendship of my best gals, but I adore knowing that my partner in love has my back and loves me no matter what ridiculous thing I do or say.

This fall, I wrote a post about Thanksgiving being difficult for me.  And I love that I could get to Alaska for Thanksgiving.  Spending time with my friend there is like a reset button for me, she and I have known each other for so long there is a complete relaxation to being together.  I love her family, and being around her just makes the crazy in my head easier to bear.

Looking at December and the end of 2014 seemed SO far away just a minute ago.  But all of a sudden, there it was right in front of me.  And as years go, it was a really great one even though it started out a little tough.  Letting go of my marriage was difficult, but we have maintained a relationship that allows us to continue to love and parent our kids the best way possible and I am proud of that.  Celebrating the holidays with my kids has always been a favorite thing for me and this year was no different.  The way our family looks has changed, but the love we share is still the thing that puts a spring in my step and can bring a smile to my face anytime I think of it.

2015 has started off better than any year for quite a long time.  I look forward to the new and exciting things ahead and the continued healing I will explore in my therapy and in a new group I will be starting soon.

I hope your year will be great too.  You deserve it!

KK